“Slow cars fast” are a dying breed. Very few cars now shine solely on the basis of their handling characteristics, and many dynamic cars are nowhere to be enjoyed to their fullest on public roads.
I love driving Mazda Miata. Not because it’s a convertible—I don’t really care for droptops specifically, but I’ll save that for another opinion piece. I love it because it’s a fascinating car to drive, where man and machine play together at the limit of their potential. And it’s not all games, because there’s a lot of work involved. Changing gears, accelerating through corners, aiming the car exactly where you want it and timing and revving the brakes and accelerators for a smooth, quick transition from one top to the next.
But the last two times I drove a Miata, it wasn’t as much fun as I remembered. There was no such connection as the one I used to enjoy in my childhood between horse and rider. There was suddenly less anticipation and less teamwork with the Miata.
I blame the horsepower bump—26 ponies for a total of 181—that the MX-5 received for the 2019 model year. 26 hp isn’t a lot, sure, but that’s about 17% more power in a car that weighs the least, and torque is also provided low in the rev range. The result is more smooth movement. I no longer needed to work as hard or work as hard to get what I wanted from the Miata. If I failed to carry enough velocity to exit a turn, I was not penalized; I could have kicked my dumb leg back down and made up for my mistake, almost like I deserved the pace.
This came to the fore again when autoblog Editor-in-Chief Greg Miglior and I were doing a podcast about our long-term Acura TLX, shortly after the Type S’s first drive was due. We agreed that the regular TLX, delivering 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque in its turbo-four, was well balanced, providing enough punch for this good handling sedan. I’d actually add a manual transmission to make it better – a lot to ask, I know. I certainly didn’t need a turbocharged V6 making 355 horsepower.
However, I spoke to road test editor Zack Palmer after driving the Type S. He made some good points about the Type S powertrain being a better fit to the 10-speed automatic transmission. It makes sense, and it feels good. The better balanced a car is, its dynamics and driver interface is always a welcome thing. I wish the transmission played better with the turbo-four. I understand why automakers put more resources into reducing the mobility of their expensive (which often goes hand in hand with more powerful cars). I just wish this isn’t usually the case, and car manufacturers often improvise first, rather than reaching straight for higher production. It’s easy to overlook an otherwise soft dish when you dump a bunch of hot sauce on it, and straight-line acceleration is an easy distraction from imperfect driving dynamics or faulty driving technique.
And yes, I’m in the camp that believes the Subaru BRZ (and Toyota 86) was perfectly fine as it was in the first generation. not me want It’s getting an additional 23 horsepower. Life moves very fast, almost to the point where it’s hard to slow down and enjoy the moment, be mindful of it, and work on improving yourself. I’ll take any opportunity I can to slow down and appreciate it in detail – to learn to make the most of each passing heartbeat – and the same goes for my car.
Plus, a lot of cars these days will irresponsibly hit extra speed without realizing they’re going so fast. At least in a daily driver, I’d prefer something that feels like it’s driving 100 mph at 100 mph at 45 mph. perception That… be afraid even more.
Sure, a good launch is fun. It’s hard to match the adrenaline I felt while behind the wheel of a Dodge Demon ticking the Christmas tree lights at Indianapolis’s Lucas Oil Dragway. And don’t get me wrong, the uber-speed Porsche 996 911 GT3 and Ferrari 458 Italia are probably my favorite cars I’ve ever driven, but it’s not exclusively because they’re fast. Those cars are engineering marvels and artistic masterpieces, perfectly balanced, almost surgical in their accuracy. However, you really need a racetrack to fully enjoy those cars. The humble Miata invites you to take to the real streets, to savor each corner, to immerse yourself in the experience, to taste every corner, to fine-tune your poorly timed shift or your precise application of the throttle in real time.
Or, at least until its next bump in horsepower.